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Harley Quinn EPs talk the evolution of Harlivy and plans for Season 3
Warning: This interview contains spoilers for the Harley Quinn Season 2 finale, "The Runaway Bridesmaid."
After many dramatic twists and turns, heavily emotional ups and downs, one thoroughly memorable bachelorette party on Themyscira, a version of True Love's Kiss, and an utter wedding fail at the Old Gotham Corn Factory (sorry, Kite Man), Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy finally confessed the full extent of their romantic feelings for each other and drove off into the sunset with half of the New Gotham City Police Department on their tail.
What's in store for them next? That's up in the air as of now, given that DC Universe's Harley Quinn hasn't yet been confirmed for a third season — but fans are already putting out the rallying cry for a renewal.
Ahead of the Season 2 finale's premiere, SYFY FANGRRLS had the chance to chat with Harley Quinn executive producers and showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker about developing the romance between Harley and Ivy from the beginning of the series, what their relationship status is as of that final shot of Season 2, what the plans are for a potential Season 3, and more.
How far in advance did you make the decision to explore a potential romance between these two characters? Was it something that was decided early on, or did it build as the story was getting plotted out?
Patrick Schumacker: It was always on the table. We had discussed it from very early on because Harley and Ivy's romantic relationship has, for a long time, been on-again-off-again in the books and it felt like a pretty important part to their history. [In] the first season we knew that we wanted to, at least for Harley's part of it, really focus on her breaking up with the Joker and her career in the criminal underworld. And that any romance would be with other characters, and that's how Kite Man became a part of it. So the love triangle was something that really just evolved organically. Kite Man was originally just a plot device and a cipher for male supervillains that aren't that powerful — or, in Kite Man's case, don't have any power but sort of act like they're all-powerful. And then it just evolved because Kite Man became kind of a favorite character to write in the writer's room. It just felt like an interesting pairing to us. But [it] was always a possibility that we were going to get [Harley and Ivy] together. We just knew it wouldn't happen in the first season.
Justin Halpern: We wanted to make sure, in the first season, that it was just that Harley self-discovery. And we felt like it was hard to do a self-discovery story if you take Harley out of one relationship and put her into another one. And then also we thought, "I don't think she's ready to be in a good relationship right after getting out of a historically bad one."
In the comics, we've definitely seen their varying levels of closeness with one another. They've been friends, they've been partners-in-crime, they've been romantic partners. So what was the most important aspect of this relationship that you wanted to develop over the course of the last two seasons?
JH: For us, we wanted to make sure that the characters were in a mentally healthy... it sounds crazy, because it's a silly cartoon where we do lots of sh*t. But we wanted to make sure the characters were in a mentally healthy place where we could do a Season 3 and not have to make it about, "Are they going to break up? Are they not going to break up?" and just have them be together.
And when we were drawing the characters and figuring out their specific personalities to our show, Ivy felt like someone we were catching right as she was learning to like people — or at least some people — and learning to come out of her shell because of Harley a little bit. So she was in this very emotionally closed place up until the moment our show starts. So she's venturing back out there. She's going to not be ready to be in a real serious relationship. And she's also someone who has kind of a lot of anxiety. She's got a little bit of low self-esteem. When you're like that, at least when I was like that, I tended to date people who were really nice to me that maybe weren't the best fit. And it wasn't until we could get Ivy to a place where she understands, "Hey, I could kind of go for something more, even if it's scary." We wanted to get her to that place.
Putting Harley and Ivy together in our show was always going to be messy, and so we didn't want it to be something that happened quickly. We didn't want anyone to say, "Oh, they just threw them together just to throw them together. They didn't do the work."
It's a dynamic that very believably goes through the ups and downs of realizing that you have more romantic feelings for, arguably, your best friend. But then, as of the finale, we see them both admitting to those feelings — and I think it's important to emphasize both, because up until this point it's been Harley putting herself out there and Ivy not being sure if she wants to take the leap, but then they basically drive off into the sunset together. So is it safe to say they're officially a couple as of that moment?
PS: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. And if we're lucky enough to get a Season 3, and we truly don't know yet, but if we are we're not going to walk it back. They're a couple. Any stakes that we want to build into the season moving forward are not going to involve [the question of] "Will they be able to stay in a relationship?" They're going to be a couple.
That's so refreshing to hear because honestly, one of my biggest pet peeves is when the main pairing finally gets together, but they're not allowed to navigate their problems as a couple. The problems almost become the threats to their relationship, as opposed to outside factors that they have to deal with as a pair. So that's really good to hear.
JH: When we were talking about where a third season could go, the first thing we both said is, "We don't want to do a third season where it feels like the stakes are [whether] Harley and Ivy stay together." It's much more interesting to do a show about how you navigate these very different personalities being in a relationship. And what are the fun things that can come out of that? What are the outside influences that can make that relationship tough but without the stakes being, "Are they going to break up? Are they not?"
So yeah, if there's a third season, which I hope there will be, the stakes will not be "Are Harley and Ivy going to stay together?" They're a couple.
I want to touch on another one of Harley's biggest relationships, which is with the Joker. I love how the show evolves that relationship, even post-breakup, especially in Season 2. What was the thought process behind bringing him back in that way? Because it kind of felt like an opportunity to give them both closure.
PS: Yeah, for sure, closure was important. And I think — and correct me if I am remembering this wrong, Justin — but we knew we were going to bring the Joker back initially because he was the only one who knew where the Queen of Fables' book would be, thereby enabling us to find the Justice League and bring them back, sort of an "in case of emergency, break glass" situation. So everything kind of trickled down just from that simple plot necessity. And then it just became too delicious to not explore what was happening with the Joker when he was "normal," and what sort of "normal life" he led while he no longer had his psychopathic tendencies right there under the skin. And we had done so much work in the first season serializing the show that it felt like it would be a disservice if we didn't bring back the Justice League at some point.
JH: We bring the Joker back for the first time in Season 2, but we bring him back almost as a plot device to tell the story of when Harley really fell in love with Ivy for the first time. And somebody in the writer's room, I can't remember who it was, made the point that in so many Harley stories she's the plot device for Joker. So it was a fun thing to do in this show, to have him service her story and be a plot device in a more important relationship for her.
Because that episode was also about [whether] people can change. And you think [Harley's] telling a story about how Joker changed, but really she's telling the story about how Ivy changed. We just sort of use Joker as the MacGuffin in the episode. But also we just weren't past that. What we didn't want to have happen is have the Joker come back and people think, "Oh no, is Harley going to get back together with him?" We wanted it to be [that] he comes back, but he's back for this very specific reason.
This show has so many random characters. I feel like you guys just reach into a grab bag and pull names out. At the same time, we've seen so many recognizable names from the Batman rogues gallery that are just gone now, they've been taken out. My question is, has anyone ever told you guys no? Is there anything that you just have not been able to do? Or is it really kind of like, "Sure, whatever you want, go for it?"
PS: Oh, it's so rare that they tell us no. I can count on one hand how many times they've told us no. And if I had three fingers on that one hand, it would still hold true. In the first season, for instance, we had a moment with Mark, the Gingerbread Man who works for the Queen of Fables in the tax office, who's from her book. And we had so much more objectionable language coming from him about what he needed to do turning tricks for money under a bridge. And that was one of those things where they were just like, "Oh, that's a little too graphic." And we had to change a few words, but that was an example of where we thought for sure that would be an example of a note about something canonically accurate in the DC universe. But no, it was about a gingerbread man cursing. Or talking about fellatio in a very graphic way.
So that was one of them. Oh, we had Darkseid show up, and he kills Forager. He was squeezing his head Mortal Kombat-style. And at a certain point, I think it was Lightray [instead], and they were like, "No, you can't kill Lightray." And we were like, "All right, how about Forager?" And they're like, "Yeah." And I still don't really know the rationale behind it, but that was one of them. But I mean, really, they've let us get away with so much.
What are you currently FANGRRLing over?
JH: Oh, man. I just finished a really good sci-fi book by N.K. Jemisin called The City We Became. So that was so, so good. It's a really interesting take on sci-fi that I'd never seen before. And she's a big-time sci-fi writer, but that book, I just finished it, and it totally blew me away.
PS: I just finished the second issue of a new comic series. It's called The Resistance. It's J. Michael Straczynski. He's writing, and it's an eerily prescient or topical superhero story, but its inciting incident deals with a viral pandemic and a fascist president. So it was an interesting read. It's worth checking out. They have two issues of it out.
This interview has been edited and condensed.